Tuesday 12 June 2012

Policy Watch

Policy choices have a significant impact on the lives of our young people. The right choices give young people the opportunity for a good start in life and have the ability to solve some of our most serious social problems.
 Dennis McKinlay, UNICEF NZ

Guaranteed winner: help families and reduce gambling harm 

Playing the pokies is not likely to boost our pay packets. Over $2 million per day is lost on non-casino pokies, and about 1 in 4 of us who play the pokies regularly develop gambling problems. Pokies exploit people who are poor with 1 pokie machine for every 75 people in poor areas, but only 1 pokie machine for every 465 people in rich areas. The pokie machines tend to take money out of communities rather than bring it in – for every $1.00 coming in, $3.00 goes out.

The Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill is currently before parliament. Among its provisions it seeks to
• (a) to prevent and minimise the harm caused by gambling, including problem gambling (section 3(b))
• (b) to ensure that money from gambling benefits the community (section 3(g))
• (c) to facilitate community involvement in decisions about the provision of gambling (section 3(h)).

Submission are due on 21 June. Further info here
Easy ways to make submissions are here

Child poverty tape-measure wanted

“Child poverty is not an inevitable situation but is susceptible to government policy.” UNICEF have produced their child poverty measurement report card which provides league tables for poverty in the ‘rich’ countries around the world. Not surprisingly, the report concludes leaving children in poverty is “one of the most costly mistakes a society can make”, as nations pay a significant price in “reduced skills and productivity, lower levels of health and educational achievement, … in increased likelihood of unemployment and welfare dependence, in higher costs of judicial and social protection systems and in loss of social cohesion.” New Zealand is 20th out of 35 countries. Both Every Child Counts and the Child Poverty Action Group point out the report reinforces what they have been saying all along:

- the first 1,000 days of a child’s life really counts for future well being.

- Monitoring poverty and deprivation and time-specific targets to improve children’s living standards is really important.  require improved data on what is happening.

 But UNICEF reported it was hard to draw conclusion about New Zealand because of the data.   The census has been delayed until 2013 and there is no up to date Living Standards survey. 

Reformulating the  Families Commission

Measurement is at the heart of Families Commission changes. “Of the $32.48 million funding the Families Commission receives over four years, the Government will re-prioritise a minimum of $14.2 million over four years to set up a new Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (SuPERU)  [$3.5 million per year].” 'There will be one Commissioner, instead of seven and a board comprising public sector, philanthropic and academic representatives will govern the Commission.'  A new Family Status Report will be developed to measure how New Zealand families are getting on. [We're not sure how they will do the measurement].

A further $4 million over four years [$1 million per year]will go to extra parenting programmes and relationship education in schools and the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health programme. Responsibility for managing the Growing Up In New Zealand longitudinal study will go to the new unit and the study will receive an additional $1.8m from Vote Social Development 2012/2013 financial year.

While we're all squabbling, new shoots are growing

Yes, and they do happen to be partly Green and mostly Māori.  The Green Party and Labour are jointly examining solutions Maori propose for the well-being of Maori children.

Maori child advocacy organisation Ririki is proposing a $3m public education campaign to address parenting issues in Maori whānau in its submission to the Maori Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into the Social Determinants of Wellbeing for Maori Children. They are promoting a Maori parenting model Tikanga Whakatipu Ririki which uses traditional Maori beliefs to change parenting behaviours.

Makes you feel yuck

The idea: the Minister of Social Development is "fed up with these children continuously being born to completely unfit parents".
The spin: A not-so-merry-policy-go-round frenzy on exactly what this means. the Minister explained she meant permanent removal of children, but some thought she meant sterilisation.  Hone Harawira (Mana) noted she wasn’t suggesting “sterilisation for those who have destroyed the lives of thousands of New Zealanders and cost the country billions of dollars - probably because white collar crime is carried out mainly by rich white people …” The Greens claimed she “is so busy blaming children and mothers that she is not addressing the fact that thousands of women and children cry out for help each year and are not getting it.” And Family First NZ announced “Dysfunctional parents do not have a reproductive right to have more children who will then be at risk of child abuse.” Auckland Action Against Poverty reminded people the courts and CYFS already have the right to step in and remove babies and children if they are in danger, but that permanent removal means courts making “judgements implying that a woman will never have a chance to reform or recover from whatever situation has lead her to harm her child or children.”

Baby boomers in the rest home

The latté set (i.e. those of us born between 1946 and 1964) are beginning to retire. The people a bit younger than us don’t want us to grab all the goodies and leave them bereft and gnashing their teeth. We the  latté lovers are a huge lump in the population, and when we are lumped in with the people a bit older than us (yes, I know we don’t like it) who are living longer and longer, we get Ageing Mega-Mountain. The NZIER have got a nice picture of the growing over 65s here.

First is the superannuation issue.   The Financial Services Council say Treasury's estimate superannuation costing 8% of GDP by 2050 underestimates how long people will live. They say 12% of GDP is more accurate. Retirement Commissioner Diana Crossan says this is looking way too far in the future because “it's not possible to be that sure of what will happen in 60 or 70 years time.”  Prime Minister John Key says government has an “enormous number of problems which are in the here and now, and we're dealing with those at the moment." Labour's … David Parker says the “Prime Minister's ego is getting in the way of making vital decisions on superannuation.” ACT wants a rethink on superannuation.

Second, we will want quality in our rest homes. This will be hard to do if the staff are not getting the pay, training and skills they deserve. The Human Rights Commission report on equal employment opportunities in aged care identified low rates of pay and difficult working conditions for staff in rest homes came out soon after Ryman Healthcare reported an $84 million profit (17% higher than the previous year). The HRC inquiry included evidence from nearly 900 people, claims “fundamental breaches of human rights” and exploitation of thousands of mainly female workers’ emotional goodwill. The report’s 10 recommendations cover pay, leadership, fair reimbursement for travel, qualifications, safety, transparency and consumer information, migrant workers, valuing carers and valuing the workforce.  Fixing the pay equity problem would cost approximately $140 million a year or about 1% of the total health budget. The commission suggests the costs of pay parity would be offset by savings from reduced turnover and fewer hospital admissions  because of better care.

It could be ‘do better, or else’ here. The over 65s have lots of votes, and health care is a growth industry.

Asset rule changes

“From 1 July 2012 the asset threshold that is used in a person’s assessment for the Residential Care Subsidy will increase by the consumers price index (CPI) every year, instead of by $10,000 per year” (Ministry of Health). For more info and commentary about this see May 28 edition of Policy Watch.

Home Support Service under threat?

Individualised funding for older people to allow them to choose and manage their own support services is one of the ways future services will be able to meet the needs of older people. In Otago, a small pilot project has been running for some time yet its future is now up uncertain.

Grey – Red Power

All 17 Grey Power board members representing about 60,000 members nationwide and many other people have signed a petition asking Government to protect the interests of current and former red zone residents of Christchurch retirement villages. The petition was presented to Lianne Dalziel and representatives from New Zealand First and the Green Party last week.

Government prioritising primary care and front line services?

One of the front line services with an extremely good reputation is Newtown Union Health Service (NUHS) in Wellington. The service had its funding cut by $300,000 last year and it has been cut by $275,000 this year. As one of the physicians points out this makes no sense as (a) primary care is more cost effective at improving health status than secondary care, and (b) the District Health Board is trying to do a variety of things NUHS is already doing.

 Working for welfare

Welfare Reform changes feature in previous policy watches. It needs to be well managed, but Work and Income boss Janet Grossman has just quit less than a year after being head-hunted from the UK. Some wonder if it is to do with the Paula Rebstock led Board appointed to oversee the reforms.

Making welfare reform all work hangs on jobs being available, particularly good jobs. Sometimes numbers of good jobs get overestimated. For example, the new Convention Centre in Auckland is supposed to produce around 1,000 jobs.
Labour’s David Shearer suggests the number of jobs could be as low as 318.

Some work to help create jobs. Ngati Kahungunu is joining with employers such as Unison Networks and Hawke’s Bay Seafoods to create meaningful jobs for 400 unemployed rangatahi in its rohe by the end of next year. It’s all part of the Clik Initiative to assist about 1700 Maori youth in the region on benefits, and many others whose only support comes from whānau.

Good jobs have reasonable pay attached, and being independent of benefits requires a living wage.
Some wages are more living than others. For example between the 2004 and 2010 average chief executive pay increased by almost 80 per cent, and chief executives earning more than $1 million increased from six to 26. Meantime, the average worker's earnings rose 27 per cent from around $33,800 to almost $43,000, according to Statistics NZ. The average weekly income for all New Zealanders rose 2.5 per cent in the year to the June 2011 quarter.

Ultimate irony

While the corporate top dogs get lots of pay, and we are busily making life more miserable for so many people, (tougher measures on beneficiaries, higher family court fees, increased prescription charges, reduced working for families provisions, labour laws giving less security to workers, overworked social services), we are going to put $8 million over the next four years into community suicide prevention. That’s $2 million per year. The idea is communities will “work together and develop their own solutions to suicide, and access informed advice and support to implement local community action plans.”  We’re speechless.


Feeling Alive: How community –based support services contribute to quality of life for older people (Sue Quinn and Ruth Buhrkuhl – Presbyterian Support Upper South Island)

Important things for older people are: staying at home, maintaining connections and relationships with others, and receiving sufficient formal and informal support to cope with challenging circumstances. Knowing a variety of care-full, practical help and emotional support is available when and where it is needed is also helpful.

From our perspective: Exploring the strength and resilience of families that include a parent with a disability (Families Commission)

Report examines strength and resilience of families where a parent has a disability. It looks at how to tailor research and practice to better meet family needs better. Often we forget the strengths that go along with disabilities. The report tries to highlight family strengths and resilience without playing down the difficulties.

Human Rights’ Commission, Caring Counts: Tautiaki Tika – Report of the Inquiry into the Aged-Care Workforce.

The main finding is about care workers in the community, paid by District Health Board funded organisations getting around $3 to $5 an hour less than caring staff directly employed by DHBs.

The Health Status of Children and Young People in the Northern DHBs 2011

What’s on

Lifewise Big sleep out Thursday, June 28th to Friday, June 29th, 2012 (6.30pm to 8am) Auckland

Advance Pasifika: March for our Future Saturday, 9am, June 16th, 2012 Albert Park, University of Auckland, concluding at Aotea Square, Queen Street.

Every Child Counts-BusinessNZ Discussion Series at Te Papa 12 July at 7pm, featuring Chairperson Kim Hill; Phil O'Reilly (CE of BusinessNZ); Jenny Prince (CE of Plunket); Pastor Chris Sola (from the Dream Centre in Manukau); and Pam Muth (KPMG)

New Zealand Home Health Association seminars on the revised Home and Community Support Sector Standard

Auckland: Monday 9th July, Lifewise Homecare Services, Mt Eden, 9.00 am -12.00 noon

Hamilton: Monday 9th July, Salvation Army, Hamilton, 2.00-5.00 pm

Wellington: Tuesday 10th July, Presbyterian Support, Wellington, 9.30 am-12.30 pm

Christchurch: Wednesday 11th July, Nurse Maude, Christchurch, 9.30 am-12.30 pm

Register at info@nzhha.org.nz by Friday 15th June or Phone: (04) 472 3196

Other notices

Situations vacant:

Chief Executive Officer – Public Health Association of New Zealand, Kahu Hauora Tumatanui, (National Office based in Wellington) information pack and job description available from Eliza Wong on request.elizaw@heartfoundation.org.nz. Closing date Friday 22 June 2012. http://www.pha.org.nz/jobvacancies.html

“Your journey, your stories, and your aspirations are at the heart of the Whanau Ora approach”
Tariana Turia: to Te Ao Marama Whānau Ora collective-the nine health and social service providers from across the eastern Bay of Plenty joining together to provide a ‘whole of system, whole of sector’ approach in the delivery of whānau-centred services.

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